As you walk into the 16,000 square foot exhibit, you’ll be transported to the ancient Middle East. Strong winds blow through a cave and soft Middle Eastern music will surround you.

The tour begins with an introduction of the geographical terrain of the Dead Sea, with photographic aerial shots of the land. Following along, you

Mount Mary College presents
“The Dead Sea Scrolls 101:
An Evening of Introduction,”

Thursday, Feb. 4, 7 to 9 p.m.
Helfaer Hall, located in the first floor of Caroline Hall, 2900 N. Menomonee River Parkway, Milwaukee.
View an introduction of the free presentation by Dr. Donald Rappé, Associate Professor in the College’s
Department of Theology.

enter a room filled with dozens of items that highlight life at the time the scrolls were written (third century before Christ to the first century after Christ). Core-made glass and huge jugs used to carry wine dating to the second century B.C. are featured.

One display includes a wooden comb and single leather slipper, used during the first century A.D. While over time they’ve become shrunken and withered, they are so perfectly intact that it takes little imagination to see them as they were thousands of years ago.

What: “Dead Sea Scrolls and the Bible:
Ancient Artifacts, Timeless Treasures”
When: Jan. 22
to June 6, 2010
Where: Milwaukee Public Museum, 800 W. Wells St., Milwaukee
Cost: Weekdays: $22, weekends: $26, for adults; $18 at all times for ages 3-12.
Tickets available at the museum box office and (414) 223-4676. Group rates available.

Parents can show their children where many Bible stories took place. An intricate scale model of the City of Jerusalem is displayed, low enough for even the smallest of children. The presentation is modeled after the late second temple period (around the first century A,D.), and includes well-known biblical sites such as Mount Zion, Herod’s Palace, the Western Wall, the City of David, the Antonia Fortress and the Temple Mount. Each place listed has information about its area and the history behind it.

In case you haven’t been “touched” by the archeological bug just yet, more is around the corner. There are displays of vases made of bronze and copper in which meals were cooked during the first and second century A.D., with Roman oil lamps from the first century B.C. and beyond also waiting nearby.  The lamps, according to the information display, often depicted gods, scenes from daily life, gladiatorial fights, chariots and other scenes. Clearly, not only were these lamps used for a practical purpose – light – but for beauty as well.

As the exhibit continues, a makeshift cave made of sand and foam appears, with realistic looking oil lamps settled firmly within the cave walls. Walking through the cave, you feel – as the original discoverers of the Dead Sea Scrolls must have felt when they made their discovery in 1947 – that an important unearthing is about to be made.

The Dead Sea Scrolls are ancient manuscripts discovered between 1947 and 1956 in 11 caves near Khirbet Qumran on the northwestern shores of the Dead Sea. Many experts believe the scrolls were created by an Essene sect, a group of Jews who broke away from mainstream Judaism to live a communal life in the desert. The caves in which the scrolls were discovered were likely the Essenes’ homes. Nearly 100,000 fragments of text were discovered and from those, scholars pieced nearly 900 scrolls together.

Located within a darkened room, encased in a temperature controlled environment where even the light from flash photography is prohibited, are fragments of papyrus scrolls dating 2,000 years. Words from the books of Exodus, Daniel, Ecclesiastes and more are on display for the faithful to examine. Above the glass cases are explanations of the texts so people can understand exactly why they are important.

One particularly moving scroll is that of the Gospel of Matthew, which describes the Last Supper, and is dated from 250 – 260 A.D. The parchment contains tiny holes, placed in specific spots within the text. According to the information accompanying the display, it was believed that those holes were used as place markers, and the parchment was used in church ceremonies.

As the chronology of the scrolls moves from Old Testament to New Testament, the tour leads into a room where famous Bibles are encased in glass. The Masoretic (dated 920 – 950 A.D.) is the oldest surviving copy of the Hebrew Bible and the first Bible on display in this part of the exhibit. This is followed by the Guttenberg Bible, Luther Bible (1710 edition), King James Bible (1615 edition), and a few Bibles translated into Native American languages Ojibway and Winnebago.

One of the final objects on display is that of a 2005-2006 Saint John’s Bible, illustrated on calfskin vellum with hand-ground ink, casein paints and gold. The oversized Bible is delicately painted, the result of hours of work.